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Federer vs Zverev Nitto ATP Finals Finals Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can Federer reach the final for the 11th time?

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 16 Nov 2018
  • Roger Federer vs Alexander Zverev is live from London on Saturday, 17 November from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT
  • Federer has a slim 3-2 lead over Zverev on head-to-head
Roger Federer (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Roger Federer contests his 15th semifinal at the Nitto ATP Finals when he takes on first-time semifinalist, Alexander Zverev at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.

Federer has now made the semifinals in all but one of his 16 appearances at the year-end Finals, with the only exception being in 2008, when he went 1-2 in the round robin phase, losing to Gilles Simon and Andy Murray. (His only victory was against Radek Stepanek).

For a brief moment, 2018 threatened to go the way of 2008, when an uncharacteristically grumpy Federer produced a poor performance to lose his opening match against Kei Nishikori, but the Swiss found his range and his game in his subsequent matches, easing past Dominic Thiem and Kevin Anderson to not only earn a semifinal berth, but to progress as group winner.

“I've always tried to pace myself in a way, set up my schedule in a way that I would have something left in the tank, I would peak at this event,” Federer said of his consistency at the year-end Finals. “I'm happy that this is another week like this. Didn't look like it maybe 72 hours ago. But I was able to come back and play good tennis.”

Federer is looking to reach the final for the 11th time; and should he go on to claim a record-extending seventh Nitto ATP Finals title on Sunday, he will become just the second in history, after Jimmy Connors, to reach 100 career titles. Of the 99 already in his trophy cabinet, four have come in 2018- the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Stuttgart and Basel, while he made finals at Indian Wells, Halle and Cincinnati. He also became the oldest man to hold the No. 1 ranking when he ascended to the top of the sport in February. It has by no means been his most prolific season, and he will look back on some really hurtful losses with a tinge of regret- like his quarter final loss to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon, and his fourth-round defeat to John Millman at the US Open, but putting everything into perspective, including his age, it has been another solid campaign for the great Swiss, and he's looking to provide the perfect finish in London.

Federer got off to a shaky start, throwing in one of his worst performances in recent memory in an error-strewn 7-6 6-3 defeat to Kei Nishikori. Nishikori's subsequent no-show in London- he won a cumulative five games in heavy defeats against Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem to finish bottom of the group- further highlighted just how poor Federer had been on that opening night.

Defeat against Thiem in his second match would have meant elimination, but the real Roger Federer finally showed up to dispatch the Austrian 6-2 6-3. Federer was still not out of the woods, as he headed into the final match day in Group Lleyton Hewitt still in danger of being eliminated amidst some complex mathematics, but Thiem's victory over Nishikori in the day's earlier match simplified the equation, as only an unlikely heavy defeat against Anderson would then knock Federer out.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion made sure of his progress with a competent 6-4 6-3 victory over the South African.

While Federer is a veteran of Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals, his next opponent, Alexander Zverev is a rookie at this level as he contests his first semi-final at the year-end event on Saturday.

Zverev had failed to make it beyond the round robin phase in his debut appearance in 2017, but it has taken him just a couple of seasons to crack the semifinal code in London, as he continues his rapid rise up the ATP ranks. 

Alexander Zverev. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
The 21-year-old German has firmly cemented his position in the top bracket of the sport, backing up a magnificent five-title 2017 with a solid three-title 2018, winning in Madrid, Munich and Washington, and making finals in Miami and Rome. He will bag a top-five year-end ranking for the second straight year.

Zverev opened his London campaign with a gritty 7-6 7-6 victory over Marin Cilic, recovering from break down in both sets to score his sixth straight win over the Croatian, but he lost to world No. 1, Novak Djokovic in his next match, falling away after a strong start. Zverev matched Djokovic stride-for-stride through the first set, and had the first break points at 4-4, but he could not convert any of two chances. Djokovic pounced in the next game, taking the set following a Zverev double fault on a third set point. He never recovered from the loss of that set, as Djokovic won the last five games to close out a 6-4 6-1 victory.

Despite the loss, Zverev was still in a pretty strong position heading into his final group match against John Isner, with victory over the big-serving American guaranteeing progress into the semi-finals, and the German did just that, beating Isner 7-6 6-3 to move into the last four. The pivot of Friday's win was the serve, which came down at a very healthy 75%. He out-aced Isner 18-10, and won 85% of points on his first serve, and 56% on his second. 

The 21-year-old also came up with some big plays under pressure, most notably, the second serve ace down the middle to save set point at 5-6, before sending the set into a tie break. Zverev also produced a magnificent forehand half volley from the baseline to bring up his first set point in the breaker, and he took an extremely tight set when Isner sent a forehand into the net. Isner, who needed to win in straight sets to keep his semifinal hopes alive, was officially eliminated after losing that tie break.

With Zverev serving first in the second set, and serving well too, Isner was always playing catch up, and the pressure told in the eighth game, was he committed a flurry of unforced errors to get broken, presenting Zverev with the chance to serve out the match. The German made no mistakes, sealing victory after an hour and 20 minutes.

Federer and Zverev will meet for the second successive season at the O2, with the Swiss winning last year's round robin encounter in three sets. Overall, Federer enjoys a narrow 3-2 lead against the youngster.

It is imperative for Zverev that he continues to serve extremely well in the semi-finals, and get as many free points as possible from the line. He won't get as many as he did against Isner, as Federer will get many more balls back into play, but the German’s chances of victory will be significantly boosted if he consistency fires 140mph first serves at Federer. 

“It's obviously great getting to the semi-finals,” Zverev said. “But the tournament isn't over. I am in the semi-finals. There are only good opponents left. There are only the best in the world. I'm playing Roger tomorrow, which is going to be a very difficult, but hopefully very nice match. We'll see how far I can go.”

“Obviously it's going to be a very difficult match. I mean, him on this surface, indoor court, he's an unbelievable player. [I’ve] played him a few times in all different conditions, all different surfaces,” he continued. “I'll prepare myself for a very tough match. I hope it will be a good match, as well.”

Zverev has got the artillery to overpower Federer from the back of the court, but Federer has got the variety and the subtlety to diffuse the German's power. This variety, coupled with his crisp serving and ground game, has played a major role in separating the Swiss from his peers over the years, and I think he will once again be to crafty for Zverev at the O2 on Saturday.

Roger Federer vs Alexander Zverev is live from London on Saturday, 17 November from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT

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Federer vs Zverev Nitto ATP Finals Finals Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Can Federer reach the final for the 11th time?

Roger Federer takes on Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals on Saturday. Can Federer reach the final for the 11th time? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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